Combining Business and Scientific Data Processing Operations at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-06-09.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                      .'      O.C.   204
                           RESTRICTED c--   Not to be released outside the General
                           Accounting Office except on the basis of specific approval
                           by the Office of Legislative Liaison, a record of which is kept
     B-162407(6)           by the Distribution Section, Publications Branch, OAS
                                                           June 9, 1971
     Dear Mr. Chairman:,

         As we reported on July 7, 1969, on our report on the au-
    tomatic data processing policiep, procedures, and practices at
    the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California, we
    have kept abreast of JPL's progress incombining 'ie-business
    and Fcientific data processing operations/. As stated in our
    report, JPL had three major general data (rocessing organiza-
    tions at the time of our previous review."C-c-                OV--Pro(SO
 B--The          Scientific Computing Facility (SCF), responsible
7 0          for furnishing computer support to all scientific,
  C<: <      engineering, and technical functions.

           -- The Administrative Computer Services Facility, respon-
              sible for performing all business data processing (re-
              ferred to herein as business programs).

           -- The Space Flight Operations Facility (SFOF), as part
              of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's
              (NASA) Deep Space Network, a command and control cen-
              ter that uses its data processing equipment for the
              preparation and support of mission flight analysis and
              control on an immediate-response-to-inquiries (real-
              time) basis, plus some scientific, engineering, and
              data reduction work.

         JPL was considering several methods of combining its
    business and scientific data processing operations, and it
    recently adopted a plan for combining the operations, which
    should reduce costs by $65,000 during fiscal year 1971 and
    $325,000 annually thereafter.

    Combination status at the time
    of our July 1969 report

        JPL initially considered combining its business and
   scientific data processing operations as early as July 1965;
   however, neither NASA nor JPL aggressively pursued this ob-
   jective. Major computer changes were being made without a
   prior determination of their effect on a possible data proc-
   essing combination. In 1969 JPL was exploring the advantages

  9/~-,7   >7.          SOTH ANNIVERSARY 1921-1971                  ,

 and disadvantages of processing the business
 load on the SCF Univac 1108 computing system. computing work
 tive was determined to be uneconomical because This alterna-
                                                 of the high re-
 programming costs--estimated to be $1.5 million--to
 International Business Machines Corporation          convert
                                              (IBM) 360 busi-
 ness programs for use on the Univac 1108
                                           system. JPL believed,
 however, that a further study should be made
 natives, and it was at this point that we     of other alter-
                                            completed our pre--
 vious work and issued the July 1969 report.

 Combination of JPL's business and
 scientific data processing operations

     JPL started to reorganize its computer operations
vember 1969 in an effort to centralize                   in No-
                                       responsibility over its
general-purpose scientific and business computing
responsibility for business operations was         systems. The
                                            transferred to the
Assistant Laboratory Director for Technical
ready had responsibility for the two major Divisions, who al-
centers--SCF and SFOF. This change, however,scientific computing
                                               did not result
in an immediate consolidation of actual computer
      In October 1969 and April 1970,
IBM 360-75 computing systems, _xcess two  Government-owned
                                      to the needs of two other
NASA centers, were installed at JPL and replaced
                                                  six large-
scale SFOF computing systems. It became apparent
to NASA that, with the addition of the IBM         to JPL and
                                            360-75 systems,
other work could be placed on these systems
                                             to permit more ef-
ficient utilization of equipment.

     In the past the use of SPOF computing systems
                                                     had been
limited to Deep Space Network and other space-flight-oriented
work. In May 1970 NASA issued to JPL a set
                                             of guidelines
clarifying its position on the IBM 360-75
                                           systems and permit-
ting the use of the IBM 360-75 computing systems
mission support tasks on a noninterference         for nonflight
     JPL, after considering the impact of
its data processing operations, proposed these guidelines on
of the processing of its business programs NASA the transfer
                                             to the IBM 360-75


computers. This action would permit the release of JPL's IBM
360-40 business computing system without jeopardizing the op-
erational. use of the IBM 360-75 systems. This alternative was
considered cost effective and was consistent with the recom-
mendations in our July 1969 report. JPL and NASA representa-
tives discussed JPL's proposal and agreed to the following

     --Accelerate the transfer of business computing from the
       IBM 360-40 to the IBM 360-75.

     -- Terminate the lease of the IBM 360-40 at the earliest
        practicable date.'

     -- Convert the business programs to operate in a time-
        shared batch-processing mode by July 1971.

      In September 1970 JPL prepared a two-phase implementa -
 tion schedule for the conversion of the business programs to
operate on the IBM 360-75 systems. The first phase, an in-
terim measure completed in December 1970, transferred the busi-
ness programs to operational use on the IBM 360-75 systems
during the third shift on a block- or dedicated-time basis.
The second phase, started in January 1971, involved converting
the business'programs ta make them compatible for use with the
360-75 computers' real-time operating system to permit the
processing of the business and scientific data on a time-shared
basis. Phase two is scheduled for June 1971 completion. With
the conversion of the business programs accomplished under
phase one, JPL released the 360-40 on December 31, 1970.

     After phase two is completed, JPL's business programs will
be processed along with other scientific and mission support
programs under the IBM 360-75 real-time operating system and
thereby eliminate the need for dedicated block time to process
the business work load. Although processing priority will be
given to some of the scientific and mission support work, suf-
ficient computer capacity will be available for the business
work load. To avoid possible interference at critical times
during space flight missions, such as the upcoming Mariner 71


 launch, a backup IBM 360-75 computing system
 process the business programs at the California available to
 Technology (CIT), also located in Pasadena.     Institute of

        JPL estimates that it will incur about $110,00'
  tijne conversion costs in combining its business       in one-
                                                    and scientific
 data processing operations. With the release
                                                  of its 360-40
 business computing system, JPL estimates a
                                              net savings (i.e.,
 after conversion costs) of about $65,000 in
 and about $325,000 in each subsequent year. fiscal year 1971
 reflect out-of-pocket costs and take into account estimates
 ment rentals, although other cost elements           only equip-
 stay about the same. The estimated savings   are  expected to
                                               could be reduced
 by about $50,000 annually if CIT's computer
                                               has to be used as


      In our 1969 report to the Committee, we
NASA provide guidance regarding combining the recommended that
                                                data processing
centers at JPL. Subsequently, in May 1970
                                            NASA issued guid-
ance permitting JPL to use SFOF computers on
                                               business func-
tions. We believe that the action taken by
                                              NASA and JPL on
our recommendation will result in substantial
                                                savings to the
Government for many years to come.

     We hope that the information presented will
to you. We are sending copies of this letter      be helpful
                                              to the Adminis-
trator, NASA; however, we plan to make no further
of this report unless copies are specifically
then we shall make distribution only after    requested,  and
                                           your agreement has
been obtained or public announcement has been
                                              made by you con-
cerning the contents of the letter.

                               S' gely

                               Comptroller General
                               of the United States
The Honorable George P. Miller, Chairman
Committee on Science and Astronautics
House of Representatives